The majestic coastal landscapes of the Monterey Peninsula recently provided the perfect backdrop for automotive enthusiasts and luxury aficionados to gather for the annual Monterey Car Week last month. Among the many jaw-dropping moments during this celebration of automotive excellence, one name turned heads (as always) – and that was Bugatti, of course.
At the heart of Bugatti’s presence at the event was the global reveal of their latest fully-customized hypercar, the Bugatti Chiron Super Sport ‘Golden Era’. This stunning gilded creation pays homage to Bugatti’s rich 100+-year-old history while showcasing the unmatched artistry of Jascha Straub, the Lead Designer for Sur Mesure at Bugatti.
Bugatti has always been synonymous with ultra-luxury and outstanding performance, but the Sur Mesure customization program takes this to a new level. If you’re a fashion lover (like me), then the best way to explain Bugatti Sur Mesure is to liken it to haute couture – hand-tailored, fully customized pieces that are designed to be revered, celebrated, and treasured.
This program is a rare opportunity for Bugatti’s discerning customers to work closely with a team of skilled artisans and designers to bring their wildest dreams to life, and it takes a couple of years (from ideation stage to final production) to make this elaborate process happen. But, the results are nothing short of extraordinary, as evidenced by the Bugatti Chiron Super Sport ‘Golden Era’ (pictured below).
During Monterey Car Week 2023, I had the pleasure of visiting Le Domaine Bugatti at The Lodge at Pebble Beach to sit down with Jascha Straub, the talented car designer who works directly with Bugatti customers to harness the power of their imaginations by transforming elusive ideas into tangible reality.
During our insightful conversation, he not only showed me the captivating hypercar up close but also illustrated and explained the actual methodology of how they hand-sketched Bugatti cars onto the door panels. In addition, he shared an overview of this creative process and the inspiration behind this bespoke masterpiece. Aside from talking about the car and this program, we also discussed his dream of becoming a car designer (which started in childhood), the real-life muse that inspires him on a daily basis, and the reason why he’s passionate about this business.
While supercars and hypercars are generally perceived to simply be playtoys for the uber-rich, they can actually be viewed as investment-worthy pieces of art, so to speak.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had discussions with both car collectors and a family that manages financial assets for high-net-worth individuals. What was interesting to learn was that exotic cars are actually considered by them to be investments.
Since one-of-a-kind, super-rare cars are so exclusive, they’re not only highly sought after (for the purpose of owning, driving, and enjoying), but they can appreciate in value over time (if well-preserved and driven sparingly). So, instead of just buying another luxury real estate property in Pebble Beach, The Hamptons, or other desirable destinations, ultra-wealthy people are having fun while diversifying their assets by investing in their exotic car collection.
The Bugatti Chiron Super Sport ‘Golden Era’ is more than just another multi-million dollar hypercar; it’s a rolling tribute to Bugatti’s illustrious century-old history. As I came to learn, this unique, one-of-a-kind vision was born from a synergy between Jascha and his team, in conjunction with the desires of a Bugatti collector who has a deep appreciation for the brand’s heritage and the intricate engineering marvel of the W16 engine. In selecting the Chiron Super Sport as the canvas for this project, the customer was looking to infuse the history and character of the brand into a spectacular moving piece of art.
To bring this vision to life, Jascha and his team embarked on a journey through Bugatti’s archives to bring Bugatti’s rich history to life, as the customer wished for.
To create this eye-catching design, they meticulously hand-sketched iconic Bugatti cars from various eras directly on the door panels. While that might not sound painstaking, in truth, he explained that it was both labor-intensive (as it took a collective 400+ hours of work) and required trial runs for them to figure out how to actually achieve this, as it was the first time they had ever designed a car like this, which presented a massive challenge to the team.
The result is an exquisite collection of hand-drawn Bugatti cars that honor the brand’s timeless elegance and innovation. While the exterior of the Chiron Super Sport ‘Golden Era’ is undeniably beautiful, the interior truly elevates this hypercar into a realm of unparalleled luxury. As evidenced by this stunning automobile, Jascha and his team ensured that every aspect of the fully customized car exudes opulence and fine craftsmanship.
To further expound on all of this, here’s a glimpse into the inspiring conversation I had with Jascha about Bugatti, his background, and so much more:
CLP: Each Bugatti model seems to exude a distinct personality. How do you infuse emotions and character into an inanimate object, like a supercar?
JS: It’s important to make the car look immediately recognizable as a Bugatti. This is why we always keep the typical DNA elements of the Bugatti design in all our cars. We somehow do an interpretation of the historic blueprints for the modern cars.
CLP: The automotive industry is now starting to embrace sustainability and eco-conscious practices. How does Bugatti integrate environmental considerations into its design philosophy? Is there any 3D printing or other elements used?
JS: First of all, we do most of the things digital now. So, we look at the models in VR and we don’t use clay modeling anymore. It’s more efficient, but also I think more environmentally friendly. And, I think in the future we will definitely look into more sustainable materials as well.
CLP: Tell me about the bespoke process. How long does it take from the moment a customer decides they want to purchase a car to go through the customization process with you, by deciding on the design elements they’re interested in? What’s the typical (if there is one) lead time to go from design to actual production?
JS: It depends. I would say if it’s really like Sur Measure, bespoke, then we are talking about 1.5-2 years, or even more sometimes because the customer wants to go on the whole journey with us. So we invite them to Molsheim (France). We have a Molsheim Experience where they can also gain insights into the history of the brand and understand the brand value. Then we sit together to brainstorm and do ideation, and then I prepare presentations so that we can proceed step-by-step. We also inform them all about the process, and so on. So that’s why it takes, usually around 2 years.
CLP: What were some of the challenges or setbacks you experienced in developing the “Golden Era”?
JS: First of all, the challenge was that the customer gave us lots of freedom, as he trusted in us managing to do this, but it was really hard to achieve it because, for us, it was important that, for example, the sketches that we did on the car, had to look natural. They had to look like they were sketched on paper. And, if you sketch on a surface, like a body panel that is, first of all curved, but also has a completely different foundation than paper, then it’s a completely different process. We were actually going into the unknown, and that’s why we had to develop a process. The challenging thing was figuring out how to make the pencil sketches look on the car like they were drawn on paper.
CLP: What elements were used to create that? How did you actually sketch onto the car?
JS: We used pencil. The process behind this could have been easier if we used marker pens or a certain type of ink, but as I said, it had to look like a pencil sketch on paper. That’s why we wanted to use pencils. Therefore, the painters, together with us, had to develop a completely new process to make this possible. We had the car painted, then there was one layer of clear coat, then they sanded it slightly off, and we started sketching on it because it couldn’t be that slippery. So, that’s why it had to be a little bit rough. Then after the first sketching loop, they put another layer of clear coat on it, slightly sanded it again, and then we sketched everything again. We did this process about 3-4x on some spots, to achieve the right contrast and shading. This actually made the result look as perfect as we wanted it to be.
CLP: Did you do a trial run on a material to figure out this process beforehand?
JS: Yeah, lots of trials. We had some prototype carbon parts and there we tried to figure out what kind of pencil would work the best, to give the most contrast, and so on.
CLP: Was this the first time your team ever did something of this nature?
JS: Yes, absolutely!
CLP: Whose idea was this? Was it the customer’s idea that they wanted this, in particular?
JS: The customer actually came to us with the idea that he wanted something very special. So we came up with four different proposals, and he completely fell in love with this one. So, it was a nice collaboration with him. He was also looking over our shoulders when we were sketching, as we invited him into the design studio in the workshops.
CLP: Where did the inspiration behind the “Golden Era” come from? Does he have a connection to history or something? Or was it your team that came up with this?
JS: He said he wanted to celebrate the Bugatti history. So, this made us come up with this idea. It’s also like marking almost the end of an era with the W16 engine, for example, because this will be over soon. I think he had in mind to have something created to round up the whole Bugatti history until now before a new chapter starts.
CLP: Out of all of the designs that you’ve worked on, what have been some of your favorites and why?
JS: The favorite is the ‘Golden Era’, to be honest.
CLP: Was it because of how intricate it was and the challenge that you had to overcome?
JS: Exactly. This is also something Bugatti stands for, and I think it’s also something special that almost no other brand has, because, for example, as a Sur Mesure designer being part of the first step sitting together with a customer, brainstorming, ideation, and then executing on the car, it think this is unseen in this industry.
CLP: Where would you say some of your personal sense of inspiration comes from? I feel that every creative type needs a muse. Some people are inspired by nature, others are inspired by rocket ships, and so on. Who or what inspires you in the way you think about designs?
JS: My inspiration mostly comes from sculptures, to be honest. I think we also have a good example of this because the brother of Ettore, the company founder, was a famous sculptor at that time, and he really achieved making objects that are standing still look like they’re in motion. I think this is also something that always inspired me, and, as a car designer, to make objects look like they’re in motion, even if they’re standing still. This is why the curves and silhouettes, and also the reflections and surfaces, can help achieve this. When you see the car from different angles, you can see the highlights and the shadows, which create reflections that make it look like it’s in motion.
CLP: Bugatti has a strong connection with motorsports. How does racing heritage find its way into the design elements of Bugatti’s road cars today?
JS: That’s very simple because at that time, Ettore, for example, was going in unconventional ways to make his car compete. This has had a lot of influence on the design language today because, let’s say our design philosophy is form follows performance. And especially with cars like this, you know, you have a W16 engine with 1600 horsepower, so it needs lots of air for cooling, but also to power the engine. We look back also to that, for example, to try to find unconventional ways to guarantee the performance.
CLP: Oftentimes when I speak with designers, they will have their own ideas about what they wish they could create, but then the challenge they encounter is with engineering and production, such as manufacturing constraints. What kind of setbacks do you find that you’re up against on a regular basis?
JS: It’s always a battle between design and engineering. In the beginning, I would like to say, that we all know how our product will come out in the end, but on the other hand, we don’t want to limit ourselves in the beginning, because otherwise, we’re not being creative anymore. But, yeah, in the last couple of years, there were some setbacks, but honestly, we can be very proud of our engineering team, because they really managed to do things.
CLP: What advice would you give to aspiring automotive designers who dream of making their mark in the world of luxury, supercars, and hypercars?
JS: First of all, follow your dreams. Even before I was a teenager, I dreamed about being a car designer, and a car designer for Bugatti, specifically. Also, pushing hard is definitely the right answer, because it’s really not easy to study car design, at least in Europe it’s not easy. But, I think it’s important to always have an aim or a target in front of you, and then just try to express yourself by sketching.
CLP: True. You have to be assertive and find that strength within yourself to push forward past your limiting belief systems. Part of what I like to do is educate and empower people. Many of the people who follow me are actually notable entrepreneurs, leaders, and executives; people I look up to. I actually resonate with those who want to follow their dreams because I think many are challenged in the sense that they’re taught a certain way – go to school, get a job, pay your bills, enjoy your life, and then die. So, I think for those who are actually pushing boundaries and choosing to pursue a certain vocational path, it takes a sense of riskiness, because you could fail in the process. But, I think, as long as you’re pursuing it, you’re going to end up in a fulfilling career. I see that the people who have the most passion and success are often those who forge their way through, even if they have to create their own path.
CLP: What superhero would you be and why? I ask this because, oftentimes, as humans aspiring toward greatness, we have to look outside of ourselves to find some sort of inspiration. I, personally, look to Wonder Woman to help me feel powerful, invincible, and capable of anything. I think what it does is challenge our belief systems by enabling us to tap into our innate superhuman powers, such as our talents and gifts. So, are there any superheroes you’re fond of?
JS: I think Bruce Lee isn’t considered a superhero. But, for me, he was always the hero I looked up to in my childhood. If you read some things about him, he really has the right kind of philosophy in his life, which has always inspired me.
CLP: What kinds of values or characteristics about him resonate with you?
JS: For example, when not all races in this world were treated or considered the same, he became very important in the movie industry, in Hollywood, and in the American world. He made his way because he would never give up. He was determined. I think this was also something for me because if I look back, I had a time in my life when I did not care too much about having aims and targets, so I had to fight harder afterward to achieve them. For this reason, I think he was always a really big source of inspiration for me.
CLP: He seems to have a humble spirit and yet a tenacity about him, and that’s often what it takes. People usually don’t realize that, on the road to success, it’s never just like going up a mountain. It’s more like a zigzag, up and down, up and down. We all have to find our inner core, strength, and determination to know that we have what it takes to achieve great things. And, those who become successful often have to go through so much hardship, so I appreciate that.
JS: He said, ‘Be water, my friend, because if you fill water in a cup, it becomes the cup. If you fill water in whatever, it becomes it.’ It’s not really like accepting everything, it’s about taking things how they happen and trying to make something work.
The Bugatti Chiron Super Sport ‘Golden Era’ is a prime example of what can be achieved when vision, passion, and talent are combined with perseverance, determination, and the drive to overcome challenges. As evidenced by Jascha and his team’s dedication to detail, craftsmanship, and innovation, as demonstrated in the hand-sketched cars on the car’s exterior, this all-encompassing work of art is truly remarkable.
As I reflect on the conversation with Jascha, I’m reminded that pursuing one’s dreams often involves navigating a winding path, much like the twists and turns of a race track. It requires unwavering willpower, just as his hero, Bruce Lee, exemplified. When we learn to embrace life’s challenges, we can turn them into opportunities for growth and success, and even create masterpieces that illustrate the sheer power of mind over matter.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing the stories of other incredible car designers and successful executives who are also leading the auto industry. Stay connected on MSN or subscribe to Inspirations & Celebrations for access to exclusive insights and in-depth interviews that will motivate, empower, and inspire you.